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    Putin hopes those guilty of Bhutto's death will be punished

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    Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday he hoped those responsible for the assassination of Pakistan's opposition leader Benazir Bhutto will be found and punished.

    MOSCOW, December 27 (RIA Novosti) - Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday he hoped those responsible for the assassination of Pakistan's opposition leader Benazir Bhutto will be found and punished.

    Bhutto died Thursday during surgery from injuries sustained in a suicide bomb attack earlier in the day.

    "Forces of terrorism are challenging not only Pakistan, but the international community. We hope that the organizers of this crime will be found and appropriately punished," Putin said in a statement addressed to the Pakistan leader, Pervez Musharraf.

    The attack occurred when shots were fired by an assassin, who then blew himself up as Bhutto left an opposition rally in Rawalpindi, near Pakistan's capital city of Islamabad, initial reports say around 20 people were killed and at least 15 injured.

    "As I express our [Russian] solidarity with the people of Pakistan, I would like to pass my sincere and deep condolences to friends and relatives of those killed and hope for a speedy recovery for those injured in the terrorist attack," Putin said.

    Bhutto, 54, who had twice been the country's prime minister, was about to run in parliamentary elections January 8 as leader of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP).

    Bhutto returned to Pakistan in October after more than eight years of self-imposed exile. Her arrival was overshadowed by a terrorist act which took the lives of 140 people and injured 500 as hundreds of thousands of people lined the streets to greet her homecoming.

    Bhutto pledged to fight against extremism and for democratic reforms, and opposed the emergency rule imposed on November 3 by President Pervez Musharraf who cited a dangerous rise in militant activity.

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